Facebook, not Apple, gets Plessey’s microLEDs

Facebook, not Apple, gets Plessey’s microLEDs

Business news |
By Peter Clarke

The microLED technology is expected to be deployed in augmented and mixed-reality displays. Plessey said it has agreed that its manufacturing operations will be exclusively used to help Facebook prototype augmented reality headsets. Facebook owns Oculus and Quest brands of augmented and virtual reality headsets.

In its statement Plessey did not indicate how long its commercial agreement with Facebook is set to last but one report said Plessey will license its technology to Facebook and dedicate its Plymouth factory to supplying Facebook for several years.

Plessey exhibited its monolithic microLED technology in 2019 made using GaN-on-Si. With arrays of LEDs down to 1-micron pixel diameter and high quantum efficiency these displays can provide high brightness at low power consumption. At the SID event in 2019 Plessey showcased a 0.7-inch microLED display for AR, made with 8 micron blue LED chips on a CMOS backplane at a resolution of 1920 by 1080.

Small, high-resolution and energy efficient makes for lighter and more compelling headsets that can be worn for longer.

And don’t think that AR is limited to clunky gaming headsets. Other examples could include swimming googles that provide information on depth, speed, position, vital signs; ski goggles that provide maps and way markers. More importantly might be microLED projectors that display information on automobile windscreens for heads-up reading.

Plessey was once a leading semiconductor component developer and manufacturer. It downsized and refocused more than a decade ago and over the last few years has focused on moving from legacy semiconductor business into microLEDs for AR displays.

“Plessey has been at the forefront of microLED display development and this agreement recognises the significant advances in our capabilities that we have made in recent years and we very much look forward to working with Facebook to help bring their vision to life,” said Keith Strickland, Co-CEO and CTO of the company, in a statement.

Facebook could have opted to buy Plessey but opted not to avoid regulatory scrutiny, one report said. That report added that Apple had considered buying Plessey recently.

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